As widespread legalization and decriminalization of marijuana continue to spread across the U.S., labor unions are facilitating the rise of cannabis labor unions and- by extension- the improved regulation and administration of industry labor rights and benefits. In fact, California just became the second state to require licensed marijuana businesses to promise a formal labor union that they will not prevent workers from joining, with New York being the first.
But why the need to unionize at all? Are your employees dissatisfied? If you’re concerned about incoming unionization and want to get ahead of it before it reaches your workforce, here are some tips to help you restructure and prepare for what may lie ahead.
Impending Unionization Isn’t Necessarily a Bad Thing
First, it’s important to clarify something unique about the cannabis industry: unionization is actually seen in many quarters as a positive step. In many ways, it’s a sign that your company is a legitimate business operation, with higher standards of credibility. It extends the socially-legitimizing status of your cannabis business and offers the opportunity to manage your workforce with higher levels of responsibility and acknowledgement.
From the perspective of growers, trimmers, and budtenders, labor unions provide an opportunity for higher base wages, increased health care benefits, guaranteed annual raises, and other benefits like paid time off and employer-funded retirement plans—benefits workers in every industry want.
With that being said, a unionized workforce offers plenty of challenges for employers. Preparing early could help you keep down the overall number of employees who seek union status, simplify your benefits, payroll, and compliance efforts, and appease unfulfilled workers by investigating into their needs sooner rather than later.
How to Prepare for Unionization in the Cannabis Industry
1. Take stock of the needs of your labor force. If your employees are dissatisfied, creating a dialogue is one way to ensure an easy transition as unionization opportunities arrive. That may come in the form of an employee satisfaction survey, informal interviews conducted by your supervisors, or even working with an in-house or third-party HR specialist to examine how your current benefits and workforce management may be pushing employees towards unionization—and what you can do about it.
2. Reach out to local unions. Labor peace deals, or LPAs, have been making news as another potential solution to incoming cannabis industry unionization for many states in 2020. However, these deals require you and your business’s managers to agree not to dissuade workers from unionizing. What does your business get out of this? In exchange, union organizers agree not to speak negatively of your operation, its managers or sites. The union also agrees not to encourage workers to go on strike or disrupt the work environment by protesting. That’s not to assume any of your workers would take things that far, but it does provide a historically sound solution for easing industries into union arrangements, as well as negotiations.
3. Prepare your workforce management solution. Unions typically come with numerous tricky requirements, especially when it comes to satisfying targeted union efforts around compensation, benefit provisions, and contract negotiations for workers. You’ll feel a less of an impact if you prepare your systems ahead of time. Additional HR changes may come in the form of:
- Differing pay rates for various classifications
- Changing pay rates for overtime, time differentials, and employee deductions
- Calculating benefits (vacations and healthcare)
- Managing pensions and 401(k)
- Workers compensation audits and premium rates
- End of year audits
If you aren’t utilizing a robust human capital management system to ensure optimum accuracy and ease, you could be risking an overwhelming amount of paperwork, fines, and potential lawsuits.
EPAY Systems Makes Working with Unions Easier
EPAY's cutting-edge software is built to help employers manage payroll for union contracts, including for cannabusinesses like yours. Thanks to our innovative, cloud-based HR management systems, we offer unique solutions to even the most complex union requirements. We can even ease the transition to managing a newly-unionized workforce. How? Our solution includes:
- Custom-designed workforce management systems to keep you in control of union employee tracking
- Streamlined payroll processing systems that accurately calculate sometimes-complex union employee wages
- Straightforward payroll processes for factoring in union dues deductions, fringe benefits, and other costs
- A single, all-inclusive monthly price for easy budgeting
- Built-in labor compliance and lawsuit risk protection
With real-time visibility and customer service available 24/7, EPAY can help you avoid expensive mistakes, keep your union workers and their representatives happy, and position your business to thrive. We bring our extensive union contract experience and payroll expertise to every customer relationship. Check out how we can serve you in the cannabis industry with our HCM or watch our 2-minute tour!